Teachers, Students, Facebook: To Ban Or Not To Ban

Should middle and high school students and their teachers communicate using Facebook, Twitter, email and other social media and internet tools? In an age when nearly everyone, every team, every cause has a Facebook page, does a teacher really want her students to see her in photos from her last vacation in a sunny part of the world?

As teachers are older and in a position of authority of responsibility, it behooves them to use social media appropriately; most school administrators say that most teachers do indeed do. But it only takes one revelation of illicit text messages to highlight the risks of increased contact. In the wake of numerous scandals, school districts across the US are creating strict new regulations:

In Illinois, a 56-year-old former language-arts teacher was found guilty in September on sexual abuse and assault charges involving a 17-year-old female student with whom he had exchanged more than 700 text messages. In Sacramento, a 37-year-old high school band director pleaded guilty to sexual misconduct stemming from his relationship with a 16-year-old female student; her Facebook page had more than 1,200 private messages from him, some about massages. In Pennsylvania, a 39-year-old male high school athletic director pleaded guilty in November to charges of attempted corruption of a minor; he was arrested after offering a former male student gifts in exchange for sex.

It might seem simply common sense not to allow students and teachers to friend each other on Facebook; to follow each other on Twitter. But teachers interviewed in the New York Times note that such social media sites have been good ways to communicate with students and even to encourage quiet students to ask questions they might be afraid to voice in class. Jennifer Pust, head of the English department at Santa Monica High School, indeed points out that “we would do more good keeping kids safe by teaching them how to use these tools and navigate this online world rather than locking it down and pretending that it is not in our realm.”

Forbidding student-teacher contact via social media, texting and the like could be in violation of free speech rights. Citing this very reason, the Missouri teachers union successfully argued before a judge that a new law instituting a statewide ban on electronic communication between teachers and students was unconstitutional. School boards are charged with devising their own social media policies by March 1. Across the nation, school boards in California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and Virginia have already created such policies or are in the process of making them.

One more point. If students and teachers communicate digitally using Facebook — and sufficient numbers do, such that Facebook  offers guidance about doing so – and the like, or can text message each other on cell phones, students and teachers are no longer only interacting within the space and time of school grounds and of the school day. What if a student contacts a teacher at 8:30 pm or later in the evening because she forgot a homework assignment? Is the possibility of 24/7 online contact between students and teachers really in the best interests of both?



Related Care2 Coverage

Social Media as an Educational Tool, in Missouri or Otherwise

Cyberbullying of Teachers On the Rise

Teachers In Missouri Banned From Being Facebook Friends With Students


Photo by Christina Welsh (Rin)


Kat Head
Katherine H5 years ago

Interesting, thanks!

Beth Weatherbee
Beth Weatherbee6 years ago

The issues that were mentioned were about adults overstepping the boundaries that should be established by teacher/student relationships. Facebook is not the problem here!!!

K s Goh
KS Goh6 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Terry King
Terry King6 years ago

Contact via social media is just too open to abuse. The power gap is too wide.

Jeannie N.
Jeannie N6 years ago

I work for a school district, I am in contact with teenagers daily. I keep my boundaries but, I have to say, there is a weekly occurrence here of male teachers getting arrested for messing around with young girls. I am not sure why they feel they are above the law but, in each and every instance they have been quoted as saying they felt the risk was minimal.We are adults, they are children, I do not care how mature they may act, they are children and there has to be a line drawn and one should never cross it. I think each and every time a teacher or someone in power who works with children gets busted, they should lose their jobs, teaching rights and serve jail time, no excuse, no suspended sentence. Send a clear message to anyone even entertaining the idea of doing anything they know is wrong
that it will not be tolerated, period!!!!!

Danuta Watola
Danuta W6 years ago

great article!! thanks

Liz Janmaat
Liz Janmaat6 years ago

Like everything there are always pros and cons, communicating with students using the technically devices we have now, can lead as we have read to misconduct, sexual abuse and control over a young mind.
I do not like facebook, twitter and the reasons have been pointed out above, the reality is that we are not only teaching the young that what is happening in the word of technology makes you vulnerable, it makes you social isolated, leads to people who can do you harm or worse, has increased bullying and there is no recall on what people say and put out there in cyber space about you, your family and real friends.
If a teacher needs to communicate with a student via the net then that teacher is not capable of teaching, I can say that as I work in education and the best way to help a student is to encourage them to speak to you about what they find difficult, so you can organize for a buddy to help them, do more on the subject in class increase their knowledge and support them, even encourage their parent to help in a positive way.
How can you do all that on facebook or twitter?
I agree with many of the comments I have read, perverted teachers and pedophiles are found, but hasn't it also given them easier access?

Emily Gage
Emily G6 years ago

like evrything it comes with pros and cons. I'm indifferent on the matter.

Ruth Leavitt
Ruth Leavitt6 years ago

The tool is not the problem; amoral teachers and curious students are the problem.
I hate hearing about teachers getting in trouble for sexual discussion with over-fifteen students. They're silly, stupid chits, and probably started it. Slap the teacher on the wrist for being too stupid to say no and send him on his way if there's no other charge you can hit him with like actual rape, not statutory.

Eva Adgrim
Eva Adgrm6 years ago

I think It is a good tool to used! It's a free world and you can block a person on FB so I can't see any problem! And they can deside them self who they what contact with!